Skip to main content

Full text of "The Gay Genius"

See other formats

Chapter Twenty-three

TUNGPO had failed in his one-man fight for reform of the
il service system. He had failed in making the government take
preventive measures for relief of a famine that he saw was coming. He
succeeded, however, through his persistent battle against shadows for
the next two years, in saving the people of China from the terrible after-

' math of Wang Anshih's state capitalism. According to Su, millions of
people had been ruined, or were in jail for debt, or had fled their homes
to escape payment of capital and interest. While the government of
China was well provided, the nation was bankrupt. The people of
China were in a state of perpetual receivership as debtors to the govern-
ment. The government had foreclosed so many mortgages that it did
not know how to collect on a bankrupt people who had run away in
default. Wang Anshih was dead and had been buried with the highest
imperial honours. It was left to Su Tungpo to salvage the people from
bankruptcy by making the government declare a universal moratorium

/&SE the people's debts. The people who died are now long dead, so that
we can watch with'some detachment and even wide-eyed curiosity the
unfathomable mind of bureaucracy, cold-hearted and stolid and ruth-
less, as it played the game of stalking the people for prey in the limit-
less jungle of old debts started by Wang Anshih.

When Su Tungpo arrived at the capital, he was greeted with a volley
of attacks and criticisms. The situation was actually dangerous for the
politicians of the Hopei party. It looked as if the Empress had calkd
him back to the capital to make him premier. His brother had been
steadily promoted until he was now chancellor of the executive board^
wtu$&, along with the imperial secretariat and the premier's office, was
one of the three chief departments of the Sung government la June
1092, Tseyu was again promoted, this time to be chancellor of the
imperial secretariat. In the loose terminology of the period, he was
spoken of as one of the "premiers". The fear of his political opponents
was justified. Now the Empress called his brilliant brother back to the
court. For self-preservation alone, the political enemies of Su had to
make a determined and bitter fight.

The two brothers were now in a highly enviable position, and there
was ,a long argument as to which one should get out in order to save the
other from political jealousy. Su Tungpo was determined to get out,
but Tseyu argued that a younger brother should give way to Ms elder